Dundalk go west on Saturday night looking to extend their unbeaten run to five games when they take on Sligo Rovers at The Showgrounds.
After losing four league games on the spin, Stephen O’Donnell’s men look to have turned the corner, picking up eight points from the last 12 on offer.
Six of those came in back-to-back wins over Drogheda United and UCD last weekend, the latter of which also saw Nathan Shepperd and his back four keep a welcome clean sheet, Dundalk’s first since mid-March.
With Patrick Hoban and Robbie Benson named on the bench, and Andy Boyle missing with an injury, Darragh Leahy wore the captain’s armband against UCD but speaking ahead of Saturday’s clash with the Bit o’Red, the Dubliner said he doesn’t really care who skippers the side, once Dundalk get the job done!
”I didn’t realise that I was going to be captain until a few minutes before the game,” he said. “It was nice to do it but it’s not something I’d really think about.
“It’s just a little thing you put around your arm and that’s it. I wouldn’t pay too much attention to it. We had a few leaders on the pitch against UCD, so it didn’t really make a difference, and I forgot I even had the armband on, to be honest with you!”
At the age of 25, Leahy was the oldest player in the Dundalk starting XI against UCD, with the average age of Stephen O’Donnell’s side coming in at just 22 and a half.
“We were training the day before the game and somebody mentioned that I would be the oldest player in the team against UCD,” said Leahy.
“I suppose I’m a bit more experienced now. I had a few seasons at Bohs and this is my fourth year at Dundalk and I’m a bit older than some of the lads that have come in.
“The average age was young but we started the game really well and people are really stepping up to the plate because we are down bodies with injuries.
“As the gaffer keeps saying, it’s ‘next man up’ and everyone is getting an opportunity. When that happens, players have to take their chance and I think you can see that in recent games.”
Both sides go into the game with an almost identical record. Dundalk and Sligo have both garnered 19 points from their 13 games to date, winning five, drawing four and losing four apiece while both teams have conceded 16 goals.
Dundalk’s tally of 19 goals scored, in comparison to Sligo’s 18, means that the Lilywhites currently occupy fourth place, although that might change depending on the outcome of Friday night’s matches.
“We played well in the second half of the Derry game at Oriel a few weeks ago and I think that was the little kickstart that we needed,” said Leahy.
“We probably should have taken three points against Shelbourne and then we backed it up with wins over Drogheda United and UCD so we’re on a decent run and we want to keep that going.
“The league is very unusual this year,” he added. “If you put a string of wins together you can shoot right off and you can go from being down at the bottom of the table to being right up near the top.
“Sligo are on a good run themselves at the minute. They picked up a good win away to St Pat’s on Monday and they beat us at Oriel with a last-minute winner last month so we know what they offer but we’re in good form and we want to extend this unbeaten run on Saturday.”
Robbie Benson, Andy Boyle, Greg Sloggett, Daniel Kelly, Louie Annesley and John Mountney are all out but Cameron Elliott is available after returning from a calf injury that has kept him sidelined for the last eight games.
Stephen O’Donnell – Quotes
“Sligo were very unlucky against Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght last Friday. They played very well and they recovered to beat St Patrick’s Athletic at Richmond Park on Monday afternoon so they’ll be full of confidence
“It’s a game between two good teams. There’s only a goal separating us in the table and we have the same amount of points after making similar starts to the season so it has the makings of an entertaining, open game and it’s one we’re looking forward to.”